THE images were familiar, but disturbingly early.
Newcastle Herald photographer Max Mason-Hubers’ dramatic photographs of the runaway Richmond Vale fire on Wednesday were a warning, if a warning is even necessary, about the bushfire danger that’s a reality of life in Australia, even in early September.
A few days earlier, while most of us were still wearing jumpers and jeans, the weather forecasts flagged Wednesday as the early spring day that would end up feeling like summer. And so it did.
A balmy early breeze had kicked up, and warmed up, by 9am. It wasn’t too long before the NSW Rural Fire Service’s extremely helpful and valuable “Fires Near Me” site detailed fires across the state.
The vast majority were small and relatively easy to get under control.
The one red, out of control fire on the RFS map was at Richmond Vale, where fire crews battled strong winds, choking smoke and a fire front that showed just how dry the Hunter is, even now, and just how quickly a full-blown emergency can develop.
We acknowledge the outstanding work of firefighters in controlling and containing the fire and protecting the community, yet again.
This weekend we can thank fire crews directly for the service they’ve already given the community – sometimes for years – and offer support before the summer season ahead.
RFS stations across the Hunter will be open on Saturday and Sunday as NSW Rural Fire Service holds a Get Ready Weekend, where people can talk to firefighters about how to prepare their homes and families for summer.
RFS crews will also be at other community venues, shopping centres and local parks, to spread the word about how to keep safe in the coming months.
RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons repeated that the dry and warm conditions of the past week, combined with a relatively dry winter, means “we’re facing a potentially dangerous bush fire season”.
There will be some in the community who will dismiss that statement by saying “We’ve heard it all before”.
Yes, we have, because it’s a fact we have to face each year. It’s also a fact that in some years the potential of a dangerous bush fire season becomes deadly reality, which is why we should always be prepared.